Yesterday while perusing the latest Wartburg Watch comments thread, as I’m sometimes wont, I came across a comment by one who calls himself “Eagle”. In his post he quotes Joseph Goebbels, who as you probably already know was Hitler’s very prodigious Minister of Propaganda before becoming Chancellor of the Third Reich for about five minutes before ignominiously blowing his own brains out.
I don’t recall Eagle’s context for the quote, except to say that it was to make a disparaging comparison between Goebbels and some neo-Calvinist…which I would normally say is fine, but I cannot make such a judgement until I know that Eagle has rejected Calvinism himself. Which I hope he has, but he’s still a ubiquitous regular on Wartburg Watch so I’m not so sure. Generally, the outspoken anti-Calvinists are run out of town on a rail over there, as Dee makes a sport of criticizing the perfunctory abuse which is a direct consequence of the very doctrines she concedes are just fine and dandy, and then pretends that she somehow manages to pull this off by exorcising motives/assumptions from actions, which is hypocritical at best, so…shrug. Who knows?
At any rate, Eagle’s context is quite immaterial, having nothing to do with the point I want to make. It is the quote which caught my attention, not the context of it within the comments thread.
Ostensibly elegant and with a thin veneer of civility about it, one might imagine for a fleeting moment, if the author of the quote was not immediately named, that Goebbels is not the utter psychopath that he most certainly was. An evil, vile man, he was a vociferous proponent of “final solution” and, in an act almost as horrific, he and his wife, while huddling in Hitlers bunker just hours before the Communists came to cave it in, poisoned to death their SIX children before killing themselves.
Such an evil man means that ANYTHING he utters needs to be parsed with the pen of reason and utterly debunked. I decided to do my part by responding to this quote. Hopefully I can show that Goebbels’ ostensible wisdom is just that, purely ostensible…a superficial, razor thin facade which masks a thoroughly deranged personality. If anyone ever should be condemned to hell for exchanging the truth for a lie, reason for madness, it is this man.
Here is his quote…notice the charade of appealing to reason while categorically throwing it, kicking and screaming as it goes, over a cliff:
“To attract people, to win over people to that which I have realized as being true, that is called propaganda. In the beginning, there is the understanding, this understanding uses propaganda as a tool to find those men that shall turn understanding into politics. Success is the important thing. Propaganda is not a matter for average minds, but rather a matter for practitioners. It is not supposed to be lovely or theoretically correct. I do not care if I give wonderful, aesthetically elegant speeches, or speak so that women cry. The point of a political speech is to persuade people of what we think right. I speak differently in the provinces than I do in Berlin, and when I speak in Bayreuth, I say different things that I say in the Pharus Hall. That is a matter of practice, not of theory. We do not want to be a movement of a few straw brains, but rather a movement that can conquer the broad masses. Propaganda should be popular, not intellectually pleasing. It is not the task of propaganda to discover intellectual truths. Those are found in other circumstances. I find them when thinking at my desk, but not in the meeting hall.”
If it is really truth one is seeking to disseminate then propaganda should be unnecessary. To appeal to the masses truth needs only a ration defense…which should be quite perfunctory if it is indeed truth. The masses will be persuaded when they see all other ideas fall before its certitude. Truth then, again, does not need propaganda, but merely propagation. It needs only brave men and women who are willing to enter into the arena of ideas and fell the impostors of truth. Debate, then, not propaganda, is the only reasonable and civil course for the swaying of the masses, who are quite capable of, perhaps not the rigors of parsing through the lies (for that is the philosopher’s job; and it is not so much a matter of intellect as it is of interest), but of seeing a false idea collapse under the weight of its own contradictions; and see truth rise from the ashes. No, truth does not need propaganda, lies need propaganda. And the distinction between the two is hardly makeable, and this should speak volumes of the “truths” the propagandists peddle.
If reason is excluded from the entreaty, then how is it possible to teach or persuade people to truth? There is no truth without reason. And if it is reason then it is not propaganda…for reason is truth, revealed in its various, consistently connected logical foundations. Therefore, if reason is truth then propaganda is irrelevant, for there can be no coupling of reason with propaganda because there can be no coupling of reason with what is inherently unreasonable. So propaganda can teach nothing, by definition, because there is no such thing as an unreasonable truth…this is a contradiction in terms. Propaganda then is force, it is slavery. It can only compel by deceit, which is inherently violent in its opinion and treatment of humanity.
Further, propaganda is a false dichotomy, pretending to teach truth while never appealing to it, by Goebbel’s own definition. And if this is the assumption, then death is the standard of “truth”, never life…because a truth that does not require life demands death. For if life is irrelevant to truth then the only rational service man can perform for it is to die. For this truth, it must be said, functions perfectly without him. Man’s life, being irrelevant, poses a stumbling block to truth, and thus the human SELF must give way.
Therefore, the reason propaganda is needed is because no one will sit still and be told they must die in service to an idea which is true only when man’s existence is excluded from the equation; an idea which is true because it lay beyond the boundaries of human life. Propaganda is always needed when the assumption is that the truth is so special, so divine, that it can only be mysteriously bestowed upon specific men who are “called” to stand in as truth incarnate…as God’s proxies, as it were. Humanity in general must be beyond the understanding of the “truth” as truth is declared to exist beyond the scope of man’s life…eluding his own metaphysical reality and his entire epistemology.
The reason for propaganda then is to force mass compliance to an idea which cannot be reasonably defended because it is proclaimed to be “higher than man”, and this statement itself is rationally indefensible. For there is NO truth outside of man. And any idea which cannot be reasonably defended to affirm and promote the only rational standard for any notion whatsoever–man’s life–cannot possibly be true.